It’s the first day of your first year in high school. Stepping off the bus, you imagine that this is what college is like. The campus is so big! There are lawns surrounded by buildings and buildings adjacent to courtyards.
Wait, where am I?
Right, first day of high school. Put my stuff in my locker, then find my way to homeroom. Wait, where are the lockers? And why are those older kids laughing? They can tell that I’m completely lost.
I already miss my smaller, more familiar middle school. I was a big fish in a small pond, but hey, I was a big fish! Speaking of that small pond, where are my middle school friends? They should be here, but I don’t see any of them.
The high school scenario I just described could apply equally well to your first visit to an online community (i.e. I’m talking branded community, not Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat).
You land on the community homepage. Perhaps there’s an activity feed there. Now what? Where do you go and what do you do?
In some online communities, new members feel just like the freshmen who landed on campus for her first day of high school.
Speaking of High School
Recently, my daughter started ninth grade. Her high school provides a fabulous onboarding program for freshmen. Upper classmen can volunteer to serve as big sisters or big brothers. Each volunteer is assigned 5+ incoming freshmen and becomes their main point of contact to start the school year.
My daughter’s big sister contacted her during the summer, before school started. My daughter could ask her big sister questions. She was also provided her big sister’s cell phone number, so they could text each other.
On the first day of school, all freshmen were instructed NOT to report to homeroom. Instead, they were given instructions on how to find their big sister or big brother. During that first morning, big sisters and big brothers showed their assigned students around campus, including the location of each of their classrooms.
It was only in the afternoon that freshman were to follow their class schedule. I wish I had a big brother when I started high school!
The Idea for Online Community Pros
So here’s the idea for community pros and community managers: this high school has a great onboarding program for incoming freshmen. Can you devise a comparable program to onboard new members in your online community?